A Prescription for Injustice

What no machine can track, all good men can see: a gathering storm amidst a raging storm. The result is a superstorm of self-destruction, affecting every man of conscience as it attacks the everyman; as lawsuits threaten a $26 billion legal settlement with three major pharmaceutical companies involving prescription opioids. 

Such is a person’s fate in Oklahoma and Washington. Such is the fate of every state overrun by synthetic opioids and illicit fentanyl. Such is the fate of the man who is unable to relieve his pain without resorting to illegal forms of pain relief, whose state government denies him medical and legal relief, whose life is a final statement, for he is guilty of no crime save belief in justice

About Oklahoma, where events rival the exodus of the last century, where a plague on the land is now a pox on the houses of the people, where the bad science of the past meets the junk science of the present, the history of disaster repeats itself. Or, the twin disasters of dust and depression, of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, meet the disastrous response to COVID-19 and the spread of synthetic opioids.

About Washington, the Evergreen State, attempts to reverse the legal settlement are evergreens of injustice. And yet attempts to counter an actual storm with a storm of protest are a distraction. Attempts by Washington’s attorney general to distract the public with lawsuits are a public nuisance: interfering with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, and injurious to the health of the people.

How it could be otherwise, when those in need of help cannot receive safe and legal treatment for their pain and suffering? How could it not be this way, when Mexican drug cartels and Chinese drug smugglers inundate the United States with illicit fentanyl and counterfeit pills?

To these questions, rhetorical in nature, the response is a deluge of rhetoric—a downpour of counterfeit compassion and tears. Do not, however, let the response drown out the fact that prescription opioids are not the problem. 

Prior to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths had declined by 4.1 percent. That victory against an epidemic would turn to defeat during a pandemic, that advancements in science would turn to the aggrandizement of science by politicians and scientists, that all science would be a division of political science—who could have foreseen this tragedy; who can foresee the end of this tragedy?

Ending this tragedy begins with settling this tragedy, because the longer injustice prevails the more prevalent this tragedy becomes. 

The legal settlement is fair and just, while the most unsettling part of this story is the effort to delay justice and deny families just compensation. 

We owe the survivors of this tragedy our wisdom and judgment. To the opportunists and con artists and performance artists, to the politicians who stage press conferences and read from cue cards, shouting on cue, to these people, we owe nothing but scorn.

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About Bill Asher

Bill Asher is a writer and retired executive. He lives with his family in Massachusetts.

Photo: Bodo Marks via Getty Images